Today, my 8 year old had her first piano recital at the Merit School of Music. It wasn’t exactly a recital, though. It was kind of a competition. She had to play in front of two judges who took notes and graded her. Then, they will let her teacher know how she is doing. There was also an audience that we were not expecting. I thought that might throw her for a loop. It didn’t. She was confident and happy even though I was pretty sure she had not really memorized her second piece. My daughter is hardly a virtuoso (many of the other kids at this recital definitely were). She doesn’t really take her lessons or practicing very seriously. She sometimes crys that she does not want to play anymore. But, then hours later, I catch her at the piano playing for fun. She is not particularly motivated by her teacher’s approval or her disapproval. She just kind of plays when she wants and doesn’t when she doesn’t want (which I think is just fine for an 8 year old). She was actually supposed to play one of her pieces last year at the same event, but never bothered to memorize it so her teacher pulled it and her from the competition. But, today, her teacher and she thought she was ready. And she was.
She was definitely not the best. She made mistakes and I was right that she still had not completely memorized her second song. Yet, she was cheerful and excited and confident. She marched right up to the front of the room without hesitation when they called her name. She smiled at the judges and the crowd. They asked her if she wanted to warm up with some scales. She was the only kid who said “no” (I am not even sure if she knows what a scale is). She played her best and was not fazed by her mistakes. At the end of her two songs rather than taking a bow like some of the more polished kids did, she stretched both arms up in the air and yawned right in front of the judges. Was it relief? Nerves? Stress? Probably not. She was just up late last night (to hang out with me playing guitar) and up early this morning (for a fantastic Purim Carnival) and she saw no real reason to hide the fact that she was tired. Then, she skipped back to sit with me and watch the other kids.
I am so proud of my daughter. She will most likely never be a fabulous musician. I doubt she will get a piano scholarship to a prestigious university. She may not even continue to play piano in the future (I quit when I was about 12). But, today showed me that she will try almost anything and has no fear. She does not get down on herself when she makes mistakes. She just takes it in stride. She does not see limitations. She sees opportunities. She will try anything even if she is not the best. In some ways she is a lot like me, but in most ways she is a lot better.
I taught my 6 year old son to knit today. He is home on Winter Break from school and was bouncing off the walls. I was trying to tune out the kids fighting, running, yelling, and generally being kids so I plopped on the couch with a new knitting project and tried to focus. Within minutes, “my overly active, never sit still, can make any furniture a trampoline” son sat down next to me and asked me to teach him. I was reluctant at first. There was no way he could do this without getting frustrated and waving my knitting needles wildly. This was going to end in another trip to the Emergency Department. Besides, I was not going to let him practice on my very expensive fancy yarn that we got on our “date weekend” to New Orleans a few months ago (http://www.pagewoodfarm.com/flora-fina.htm). But, he insisted. So, I had to find him a set of needles (they were in the computer desk, of course) and some spare yarn (skeins of yarn for hundreds of unfinished or more likely never started projects are stashed in every drawer and every closet around here). I did not think he would have the patience to wait for me to gather what we needed and cast on enough stitches to start a scarf and then wait for me to be able to show him what to do.
I was WRONG. He not only waited patiently, he watched over my shoulder as I carefully cast on 20 stitches and then knitted the first 2 rows. When I tried to sit behind him and take the needles in both of our hands, but he said “I got it, Mom. I watched you”. (Really? It took me weeks to get the hang of knitting.) I knew he was capable of focusing on something he is excited about (usually a new toy or a superhero movie that I have finally agreed to let him watch). I also knew he was good at spatial relations (like his father, the architect) and figuring out complicated diagrams (like Legos). What I did not expect was that he would make mistakes (only a few) and ask for help without getting frustrated and that he would stick with it most of the day. He even asked to take it to the library and sat with me knitting while the girls picked out books.
An added benefit was that as he was knitting, he was talking to me. He rarely talks to me. I mean he asks for food, and snuggles occasionally and refuses to go to bed and tattles on his sisters and says he loves me (usually when he wants something). But, he doesn’t talk to me about anything important very often and if I try to initiate a conversation he gets embarrassed or too silly to talk. The knitting changed all of that in a way that even the focus of building Legos cannot. Today, I heard all about the kids at school, his teacher and her dog. I heard about his favorite songs from music class. I heard about his fears that his friends might tease him for learning to knit because “they do not know how fun it is and they might think it is only for girls ” (not sure how this could be my kid). I heard about his future dreams “he wants to live at home forever” (ugh!). I also heard about how he thinks about people who are homeless a lot and wants to donate his warm scarf once it is finished.
The other thing I heard that I have not heard in a while is a calm, silent, focused, happy boy.